Shade Tolerant Ornamental Grasses

Updated November 21, 2016

Shade-tolerant ornamental grasses need little maintenance, and few pests bother them. Most ornamental grasses, according to C. R. Wilson of Colorado State University Extension, need at least three to five hours of sunlight each day. Many prefer full sun; however; a few are shade tolerant. They grow well in poor soil, control erosion and add texture and colour to landscaping areas, where other plants may not thrive.

Golden Foxtail Grass (Alopecurus pratensis)

The University of Idaho lists golden foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) as a short grass, less than 24 inches tall, with soft-appearing green and yellow foliage. It needs moist rich soil and light shade. If exposed to full sun, the golden foxtail needs constant irrigation. Although the name is the same, this plant will not injure your pets as does foxtail barley.

Blue Moor Grass (Sesleria caerulea)

Blue moor grass needs constant watering in very hot, dry locations. According to Washington State University, this grass grows to 8 inches high. Dark-purple flowers shoot up in the early spring to 16 inches high. It makes a - good groundcover in low-traffic areas, but will not tolerate much foot traffic. Plant this for edgings or border fillers. In cool locations, it tolerates full sun. In hot locations, blue moor grass thrives in full shade. This clumping plant wants moist, rich soil.

Bronze Veil Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia cespitosa)

Bronze veil tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) looks equally well as an accent plant or in masses. The evergreen foliage grows to 24 inches tall, says M. A. Powell of North Carolina University. In May and June, the bronze arching flowers extend upward to 40 inches tall. This plant thrives in full sun or light shade and needs rich, moist soil.

Greater Wood Rush (Luzula sylvatica)

The greater wood rush (Luzula sylvatica) forms clumps about 16 inches tall. In May through July, the flowering stalks shoot up 20 inches high. It makes a good groundcover for shady areas. Greater wood rush needs moist, rich soil, preferably acidic. Although drought tolerant, it looks best if not allowed to become too dry.

Japanese Blood Grass (Imperatata cylindrical)

Because Japanese blood grass (Imperatata cylindrical) spreads easily in heat, it is on the noxious weed list in some warmer states. In cooler states, it does not easily spread, and landscapers use it for the red colour. The bright, red-striped foliage becomes about 12 inches high. This is also a good grass for container growing. Although drought tolerant, this plant prefers moist soil. It grows best in the shade in hot areas.

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